The Czech Republic has moved up by seven notches to 14th place in KPMG’s global chart of VAT rates. This is due to an increase in the basic VAT rate to 21 percent in January of this year, while the average global basic VAT rate is 15.55 percent. The European average VAT rate is 20.5 percent. The tax burden on Czechs is thus higher than the global, as well as European average.
The government has set aside an additional 557 million crowns for flood relief, bringing the total amount pledged to deal with damage in areas and ensuing clean-up operations to 7.3 billion. Insurance companies have registered 30,000 insurance claims amounting to almost four billion crowns to date; the agriculture sector, meanwhile, suffered damages of more than 3.5 billion in the recent floods which hit a number of regions in Bohemia.
Culture Minister Alena Hanáková (TOP 09-STAN) confirmed on Wednesday that she will step down at the end of June. The embattled minister had faced increasing criticism both from the opposition and expert circles; speculation that she would step down had intensified for some time. The minister told journalists she no longer felt she had the support of her party; she took the decision after meeting earlier with TOP 09 head Karel Schwarzenberg. Jiří Hlaváč, a former dean at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (AMU) is being mentioned as a possible successor.
Almost 50 percent of Czechs have expressed dissatisfaction with Miloš Zeman 100 days into his presidency, according to a new poll by the STEM/MARK agency. The results were released by Czech TV. Respondents graded the head-of-state, the first in the Czech Republic elected directly by the people, in a number of areas. Those who were critical towards the president, for example, found fault with his behaviour at a recent ceremony in which the crown jewels were put on display: three-quarters of those questioned said they did not believe he was ill but under the influence of alcohol. The president on Tuesday denied he had been drunk. Forty-nine percent of those questioned disapprove of the president, while 51 percent are in favour, according to the poll.
Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, the leader of the TOP 09 party, has expressed support for fellow party member Tomáš Hudeček, suggesting he would be a suitable candidate for the post of Prague mayor. He made the comment in an interview for financial daily Hospodářské noviny. Other sources have reported he also has broader backing among the party. Until recently, two others Jiří Vávra and Václav Novotný were considered favourites for the job. Mr Hudeček has been acting mayor in the capital since the collapse of the coalition between TOP 09 and the Civic Democrats. Last month Bohuslav Svoboda, who was mayor for 2.5 years, was dismissed alongside other Civic Democrat councillors. A new mayor and new council are expected to be elected next week; TOP 09’s Prague branch is continuing negotiations with the opposition Social Democrats.
The Czech Hydrometeorological Institute has lifted the flood warning it issued in the regions of central and south Bohemia, Ústí in north Bohemia) and Plzeň (west Bohemia) on Monday. Three towns still face potential danger from floods: Děčín and Ústí nad Labem, on the Labe River, as well as the UNESCO-listed Český Krumlov in south Bohemia, on the Vltava River, ČTK reported. However, water levels have fallen markedly and heavy precipitation is not expected in the country over the next few days. Extensive floods hit Prague and most regions in Bohemia, the western part of the Czech Republic, last week. The floods claimed lives and saw thousands of people evacuated from their homes.
Regions in the Czech Republic recently hit by floods have begun tabulating the damage costs. So far, damage to infrastructure and property across 25 municipalities in Plzeň has been estimated at 47.9 million crowns. The figure, however, is preliminary and appears likely to go up. Municipalities have also begun filing for financial relief so far counting 3.7 million. Beroun, not far from the capital, has been tabulating the damage to roads and bike paths, so far estimated at 30 million crowns. The overall figure for total damages there, however, is expected to increase considerably: between 200 and 300 million. Fifty million crowns, meanwhile, is being drawn by the region of Ústí in north Bohemia to be used for clean-up operations and repairs. The figure is not final: the regional governor pointed out it was around a ‘seventh’ of total funds which will be required.
In related news, local employment bureaux have issued approximately 1,280 relief payments to families in areas struck by floods; hundreds of unemployed people also volunteered to help in clean up operations. The news was revealed on Wednesday by the spokesman for the central employment office Jiří Reichl. People whose property was lost or badly damaged in the recent floods can apply for immediate help of up to 51,150 crowns. The spokesman noted that a number of towns and villages had signed agreements with employment bureaux covering publically-beneficial work.
The number of inhabitants in the Czech Republic dropped by 3,300 people in the first three months of this year, the Czech Statistical Office revealed Wednesday. According to the bureau, the population number currently stands at 10,512,800; during the three-month period, deaths outnumbered births. Compared to the first quarter in 2012, however, both the birth and mortality rates went down, as did the number of abortions and weddings. By contrast, the number of Czechs getting divorced went up. More than 6,500 marriages ended in divorce, up by 400 cases from a year ago.
This year’s Pavel Koutecký Award for best Czech documentary has been won by Pavel Abrahám with Dva Nula (Two Nil), which focuses on fans at a soccer match featuring Sparta Prague. The presentation was made at a ceremony at Prague’s Archa theatre on Tuesday evening. In all over 100 documentaries were considered for the prize, with the winner selected from a shortlist of 10. Pavel Koutecký was a filmmaker who died in 2006 at the age of 50, halfway through the making of Citizen Havel, a portrait of the late president that subsequently became a great success.